Save Mart Cos. Expands Autonomous Delivery Program

Regional grocer extends partnership with Starship Technologies to bring contactless service to Lucky California banner
Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology, Chain Store Age
CSA Berthiaume
Save Mart Cos. expands autonomous delivery program
Select Lucky California customers can now receive robotic deliveries.

The Save Mart Cos. supermarket conglomerate is bringing autonomous delivery to its Lucky California banner.

Save Mart, which operates over 200 grocery stores under several banners (including Save Mart) in the Central Valley of California, is extending a partnership with autonomous delivery services provider Starship Technologies to its Lucky California flagship store in Pleasanton, Calif. Lucky California is the first grocery store in the San Francisco Bay area to partner with Starship Technologies.

In September 2020, the Save Mart flagship in Modesto was the first grocery store in the U.S. to offer the Starship Technologies robot delivery service. The Starship robots can each carry up to 20 pounds of groceries (the equivalent of about three shopping bags).

Shoppers can access the “Starship — Food Delivery” app on iOS and Android devices to choose from a range of grocery items and drop a pin where they want their purchase delivered. Once an order is submitted, Lucky California associates pick the delivery items and place them in a robot whose interior and exterior is sanitized before each order.

Customers can then watch, via an interactive map, as the robot travels from the store to them. Once the robot arrives, the customer receives an alert, and then meets and unlocks it through their mobile device. The delivery will typically take a matter of minutes, depending on the items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. 

Starship Technologies robots move at pedestrian speed and use a combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The zero-emission robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow.

Since launching automated on-demand delivery, the Save Mart Pleasanton store has expanded its delivery area to serve over 55,000 households. As of Feb. 16 in Pleasanton, more than 1,500 households can receive a robotic delivery from Lucky California, and this delivery area is expected to grow in the coming months, similar to the pattern followed in Modesto.

Robotic Delivery Goes Mainstream

Robotic delivery, both with piloted and fully autonomous devices, is expanding beyond its large-retailer origins with the Amazon Scout device. Other mid-to-large-sized retailers that have since tested four- and six-wheeled robotic delivery vehicles include Safeway.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) Airport recently partnered with autonomous robot startup Ottonomy Inc. to deliver retail and food items in one of its concourses via the company’s “Ottobot” robots. The University of Arizona and Ohio State University have both teamed up with Grubhub and Yandex Self-Driving Group to roll out on-campus delivery via Yandex robots, while Los Angeles-based Coco debuted its robotic fast food delivery service at Erewhon Market.

“Since the debut of our contactless delivery service at the Save Mart flagship store, feedback from the Modesto community has been incredibly positive,” said Barbara Walker, senior VP and chief marketing officer for The Save Mart Cos. “We are thrilled to expand this service to Lucky California in Pleasanton and offer a safe and efficient grocery delivery solution, along with some joyful entertainment, especially as the service area progressively expands over time. Bay Area shoppers continue to discover our diverse assortment of products and fresh, quality groceries and, during these challenging times, Lucky California is working hard to keep prices low and shelves stocked.”

“We are very pleased to bring the benefits of autonomous delivery to Pleasanton, in partnership with Lucky California,” said Ryan Tuohy, senior VP of sales and business development at Starship Technologies. “Since launching our service in Modesto in 2020, we’ve been excited to see the extremely positive reaction to the robots and how they were embraced as part of the local community. We think the residents of Pleasanton will appreciate the convenience and positive environmental impact of autonomous delivery and we fully expect the service area to quickly expand to more households.”

Based in Modesto, Calif., The Save Mart Cos. operates over 200 retail stores under the banners of Save Mart, Lucky/Lucky California and FoodMaxx. The company is No. 51 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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